Last month, the Supreme Court of Ghana ruled on a case which may have a significant impact on the rule of law in the nation. The ruling related to a suit brought before the Court by Prof. Kweku Asare in October 2015. He had sought the Court’s declaration, among other things, that the Ghana Law School’s practice of requiring applicants to write an entrance examination and undergo an interview since 2012, is unconstitutional. The Court ruled in favour of the plaintiff in that regard. It indicated also, that all persons who meet the qualifying criteria spelt out in the Legislative Instrument 1296, are entitled to enter the School without the additional impediments of an entrance exam and interview (see Graphic Online report, for example).
For more complete context; at the time of the Supreme Court ruling, law faculties in 5 universities and colleges were graduating more than 1,000 LLB holders annually, yet 250 such graduates only were admitted to the Ghana Law School each year, for professional education leading to their call to the bar.
The Supreme Court ruling partially satisfies the first of three Truths shared by Dr. Raymond Atuguba, a member of the Law Faculty in the University of Ghana, in his speech titled We Need A Legal Revolution And We Need It Now. He gave the speech during the maiden Revolutionary Lectures series on June 2nd, 2017. I identity the 3 truths he shared as the Atuguba Truths in this and subsequent posts, for easy reference and with no mischief intended. They’re paraphrased below and depicted in the graphic which follows. (I posted the full text of Dr. Raymond Atuguba’s speech just prior to this post).
TRUTH NUMBER ONE
- We need to restructure legal professional education by:
- Simplifying the admission of applicants to the Ghana Law School, for more universal access and
- Revising legal education to make it relevant to our pursuit of freedom and justice for all.
- When we attempt to pursue freedom and justice through the law courts as they operate today:
- It takes too long to get to court;
- It costs too much when we get here;
- Its much too crowded when we’re admitted there;
- Their principles of law and justice are alien to us;
- We’re lost in the procedures and jargon they use;
- It takes too long to get out;
- The results we obtain;
- Are often flawed because of corruption,
- Are often tainted by politics and
- Often damage our relationships after we exit.
- Dr. Atuguba recommends that we remedy these defects by taking specific and urgent measures:
- Review and alter the rules of court independently of the legal professions, to help remedy defects in the courts’ administration of justice;
- Extend electronic record keeping in the courts to include the electronic filing of cases and the notifications of court processes, in order to reduce the human agency which so often facilitates corruption in court administered justice;
- Audit judgements and orders of the courts for monetary, political and other forms of corruption.
- There are alternative systems for procuring freedom and justice, through Chiefs’ Palaces and the CHRAJ offices, but the law courts have rendered them largely ineffective, despite the fact that a large proportion of the population continue to look to those institutions for freedom and justice. The law courts must reaffirm the rulings of these institutions, where such rulings do not clearly conflict with provisions of the Constitution, or statutes of Parliament.
TRUTH NUMBER TWO
The law and the courts must be contemporary, in aiding our pursuit of freedom and justice for all in Ghana.
TRUTH NUMBER THREE
The fight against corruption must promote freedom and justice for all and not be restricted by the political, or economic interests of the few.
I purposely relate the Atuguba Truths to our national aspiration towards freedom and justice for all; as proclaimed in our national coat of arms. Atuguba pointed out that we’ve tended to rely on the courts to legitimize, or aid our efforts at realising that aspiration. Yet, as in many other aspects of our national life, we haven’t acted with nearly enough deliberateness and persistence, in attempting to translate this proclaimed aspiration into reality. Upholding and pursuing the Atuguba Truths consistently should facilitate our efforts at realising freedom and justice for all.
That is what makes the Supreme Court ruling on access to legal professional education significant. Its part of the crust of a multi-layered system of deliberate practices which can aid the transformation of Ghana into a land of the free and just.
Now, you may think lawyers are liars, or worse and you’re entitled to an opinion on that and on any other matter. The truth of the matter is, they’re no different from the rest of us, ethically. Be that as it may, I urge that you keep your opinion to yourself and not mention it to them. You just may annoy them into charging us ruinous legal fees, if you do tell them to their faces and, if our past is a good gauge of our future behaviour, we’re going to need a whole lot of them to realise the aspiration of freedom and justice for all, as we become more aware of our rights and self-confident enough to insist on them. It is indeed a good thing that the Supreme Court sided with the plaintiff to open up the legal professions. (Mind you, I don’t exactly have a dog in that fight. I’m neither a lawyer, nor a judge and you’ll never hear me say, “I put it to you”. I think it unbearably rude to say that).
Yet, there’s a sense in which our more extensive use of lawyers to attain to our aspiration evidences failure on our part. To use a somewhat crude illustration, spouces don’t need the services of lawyers in their dealings with each other, unless their relationship deteriorates irreparably into a contested separation, or divorce. While there’s enough trust between them and each spouse acts in good faith, they don’t need the company of lawyers. In the same vein, we won’t have to lawyer up often, if we find ways of getting along with each other and negotiating mutually beneficial arrangements, as we individually and collectively pursue freedom and justice.
The courts in and of themselves cannot establish and maintain Ghana as a land of the free and just; we the people of Ghana can, if we learn to live with ourselves in mutually supportive ways. That underscores my call for a changes to the wording of our national pledge, in my 5-part post titled, On Being Ghanaian. I vary the wording included at the end of On Being Ghanaian: Delta CORE to read:
I promise on my honour to be faithful and loyal to my fellow Ghanaian.
I pledge to defend his right to remain different.
I pledge to uphold his constitutional rights at all times.
I pledge to treat him justly and equitably at all times.
I promise to assist him in every legitimate way, in his quest for freedom and justice.
So help me God.
No, don’t bother to tell me, because I already know that a national pledge, however appropriately worded, cannot by itself transform our society. Yet, it can define how we ought to relate with each other, in personal terms and that is what may make this pledge a thing of value in our eyes. The proposed pledge is framed in familiar terms we can hold each other accountable for. When it does become necessary, we can seek redress for breaches in the alternative justice institutions, where we the mortals feel more comfortable and don’t necessarily need the company of lawyers! If you see value in this rewording of the pledge, then I urge that you click on the link below and over the next 2 minutes or so, sign an online petition which requires our President to take all necessary steps to alter Ghana’s national pledge to conform with this proposal: ©